Zhong Kui (Chinese: 鍾馗; pinyin: Zhōng Kuí; Wade–Giles: Chung Kwei) is a figure of Chinese mythology. Traditionally regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings, and reputedly able to command 80,000 demons, his image is often painted on household gates as a guardian spirit, as well as in places of business where high-value goods are involved.
Becoming the king of ghosts
According to background-folklore, Zhong Kui travelled with a friend from his hometown, Du Ping (杜平), to take part in the state-wide Imperial Examinations held in the capital-city. Though Zhong Kui attained a great academic success through his achievement of top-honours in the major exams, his rightful title of "Zhuangyuan" (top-scorer) was stripped away from him by the emperor because of his disfigured and ugly appearance. In anger and fury, Zhong Kui committed suicide upon the palace-steps by continually hurtling himself against the palace-gates until his head was broken and he consequently died, whereupon Du Ping had him buried and laid to rest. During a divine judgment after his death from suicide, Yama (the Chinese Hell King) saw much potential in Zhong Kui, who was intelligent and smart enough to score top-honours in the Imperial Examinations but who was also unfortunately condemned to Hell because he committed a grave sin of suicide. Yama then gave him a title, as the king of ghosts, and tasked him to hunt, capture, take charge of and maintain discipline and order of all ghosts. After Zhong Kui became the king of ghosts in Hell, he returned to his hometown on Chinese New Year's Eve. To repay Du Ping's kindness, Zhong Kui gave his younger sister in marriage to Du Ping.
Popularization in later dynasties
Zhong Kui's popularity in folklore can be traced to the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang China (712 to 756). According to Song Dynasty sources, once the Emperor Xuanzong was gravely ill. He had a dream in which he saw two ghosts. The smaller of the ghosts stole a purse from imperial consort Yang Guifei and a flute belonging to the emperor. The larger ghost, wearing the hat of an official, captured the smaller ghost, tore out his eye and ate it. He then introduced himself as Zhong Kui. He said that he had sworn to rid the empire of evil. When the emperor awoke, he had recovered from his illness. So he commissioned the court painter Wu Daozi to produce an image of Zhong Kui to show to the officials. This was highly influential to later representations of Zhong Kui.
Dai Jin's The Night Excursion of Zhong Kui (15th century), depicting Zhong Kui undertaking a night patrol while being carried in a sedan chair by four demons
Ren Yi's Zhong Kui (1883), in which Zhong Kui appears as an elegant but somewhat eccentric scholar, with his sword sheathed and a blossom in his hair, as he decorously reads
Zhong Kui is seen waving his sword at five bats representing the five blessings, as if symbolically bringing these fortunes down to someone as recipient, depicted in a late 19th or early 20th century xylograph
A painting by the Shunzhi Emperor (r. 1643–1661) of the Qing dynasty
A detail of Okumura Masanobu's Shōki zu (Shōki striding), dated c. 1741–1751.
Fei Danxu's Zhong Kui and his Assistants Under Willows (1832), depicting Zhong Kui and his demon helpers
Zhong Kui by Min Zhen (1730–after 1791), depicting Zhong Kui riding a quadrupedal creature
In popular culture
- Zhong Kui is a playable character in the game SMITE, where his title is "The Demon Queller".
- Zhong Kui is the main character in the movie Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal, which takes significant liberties with rewriting his mythology in order to tell a complicated love story.
- Along with many other famous fictional characters, Zhong Kui appears in the infamous 1977 Bruceploitation film, The Dragon Lives Again.
- Zhong kui also in an Asia Television production titled: The Chinese Ghostbuster, a 1988 television series starring Law Lok Lam as himself.
- in 1994, the Hong Kong movie was joining Zhong Kui in The Chinese Ghostbuster, starring Wu Ma as Chung Kui.
- Zhong Kui is the main character in the TV series Heavenly Ghost Catcher
- Zhong Kui shows up as a spiritual guide to Sasuké the Demon Queller in the comic books Usagi Yojimbo. Due to the Japanese setting, his name is pronounced "Shoki".
- Nagendra Kumar Singh (1997). International encyclopaedia of Buddhism: India . Anmol Publications. pp. 1372–1374. ISBN 978-81-7488-156-4. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- Richard Von Glahn (2004). The Sinister Way: The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture. University of California Press. pp. 122–128. ISBN 978-0-520-92877-0. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to:|